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by Vault Consulting Editors | April 11, 2008

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Today'sWSJ CareerJournal discusses the issue of corporate America finally making it easier for professionals who've taken time away from the hustle and bustle to return to work. And not only that, but companies are actively encouraging professionals to return and enticing them with flexible work arrangements. Booz Allen Hamilton and Deloitte offer programs to actively recruit and train returning professionals, and Cisco Systems encourages flexible work arrangements, with 70 percent of its employees regularly working from home at least 20 percent of the time. PricewaterhouseCoopers' Full Circle program allows professionals to take leave of up to five years with the option to return. Companies are now realizing that, with the increasingly competitive talent pool, providing flexible work alternatives is a great way to boost their retention and attract top candidates, making these arrangements mutually beneficial for both employee and employer.

There are several driving forces behind this change in attitude among corporations: the expected worker shortage as the first wave of baby boomers begins to retire, and the growing expectation among younger workers of more flexible work arrangements. According to the Center for Work-Life Policy, 93 percent of highly qualified professional women who have left the workforce and have been out for over two years are trying to get back. And although a large portion of those women are able to find work, the president of the center, Sylvia Ann Hewlett remarks, "There is still a tremendous amount of stigma and suspension when employers see a hole in a resume." The article includes some tips on how to smooth the transition to the workforce, and an earlier CareerJournal article offers some how-to's on managing a successful and productive flexible work schedule.

To help alleviate any stigmas, a number of web sites, coaching and recruiting agencies and educational programs have sprung up to advocate for women and other professionals who have left the corporate world for family or other reasons. On-Ramps is a recruiting and consulting firm that helps companies use flexibility as a key component of its retention efforts, and places candidates in full-time, part-time and project-based assignments. Mom Corps, proclaiming itself the "expert in the flexible employment market," is a job-placement service geared toward moms who have opted out of the traditional corporate workplace but would still like to pursue a career in their respective field.

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